36 year-old Kerry Wood plays the “back in my day” card

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I don’t mean to take anything away from this wonderful feature on Kerry Wood by Jeff Nuich of CSNChicago.com. It’s really quite excellent, as is what we learn about Wood’s commitment to community and underprivileged kids in Chicago since he retired last season. And of course Wood was a fantastic pitcher. No criticisms of him at all.

But I must chuckle at what is perhaps the longest-lasting, most unbreakable pattern in baseball history: a retired guy lamenting how the young major leaguers these days don’t respect the game the way he and his fellow veterans did. Here’s Wood’s response when asked about the stain of the Biogenesis scandal, Alex Rodriguez’s suspension and the scourge of performance enhancing drugs:

“You have to play with respect and respect the game,” said Wood. “When I came up and when guys like Todd [Hollandsworth] came up, we all felt the game didn’t owe us anything and we respected the game for what it was and kept that integrity. I think over the last few years we’ve seen that change. A lot of guys will get [to the big leagues] and it’s almost like baseball’s been waiting for them and they feel like the game owes them something.

Kerry Wood is only 36 years-old. His rookie season — “when I came up” — was the year of the Sosa-McGwire home run race, for which Wood had a front row seat in the Cubs dugout. It was a time when PEDs were plentiful and their use went unpunished. He is younger than Alex Rodriguez and, were he still in the game, would have less service time than A-Rod does for crying out loud.

I fully appreciate and credit Wood for respecting the game, but man, this is not a generational thing the way he couches it. The kids coming up today are far less accepting of PEDs in the game than Wood and his teammates were. If anything, an argument can be made that the attitude of today’s players with respect to this topic is leaps and bounds better than the attitude of Wood’s generation.

But it has always been thus in baseball: old timers — even relative ones like Wood — recalling a better day that never was and lamenting a present day that is actually much better.

Report: Yankees, Reds finalizing trade for Sonny Gray

Sonny Gray
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Barring physicals and roster reshuffling, the Yankees and Reds are all but ready to finalize a deal involving right-hander Sonny Gray, Fancred’s Jon Heyman reported Saturday. The exact return has not been confirmed, but Heyman hears that the Yankees will receive top infield prospect Shed Long and a draft pick in exchange for Gray, with an as-yet unnamed third player possibly involved as well.

According to several reports earlier in the day, negotiations came down to the wire as the Yankees first had their eye on the Reds’ no. 6 prospect, 22-year-old catcher Tyler Stephenson. The Reds ultimately elected to hang on to Stephenson and send Long to New York, as they currently have a greater need for catching depth and weren’t expected to be able to provide a full-time role for the infielder in 2019. Long, 23, is ranked seventh in the Reds’ system and appears to be nearing his MLB debut after batting .261/.353/.412 with 12 homers and a .765 OPS across 522 PA at Double-A Pensacola last year.

Gray figures to step into a prominent role within the Reds’ rotation, which is likely to be a mix of recently-acquired left-hander Alex Wood and right-handers Tanner Roark, Luis Castillo, Anthony DeSclafani, and Tyler Mahle, among several others. Despite Gray’s struggle to remain productive on the mound — he’s three years removed from his only All-Star campaign and turned in a disappointing 4.90 ERA and 2.16 SO/BB rate in 2018 — he might yet help stabilize a team that trotted out the fifth-worst rotation in the majors last season. If, on the other hand, the veteran righty finds the hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ball Park a little too unforgiving this year, the Reds can take some comfort in the fact that he’s due to enter free agency in 2020.